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Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"

MEN  OF MATHEMATICS
till the 'boy' was nearly forty. Luckily Karl was made of more
resistant stuff. As we shall see his fight against his father -
although he himself was probably quite unaware that he was
fighting the tyrant - took the not unusual form of making a
mess of the life his father had chosen for him. It was as neat a
defence as he could possibly have devised, and the best of it was
that neither he nor his father ever dreamed what was hap-
pening, although a letter of Karl's when he was sixty shows that
lie had at last realized the cause of his early difficulties. Karl at
last got his way, but it was a long, roundabout way, beset with
trials and errors. Only a shaggy man like himself, huge and
rugged of body and mind, could have won through to the end.
Shortly after Karl's birth the family moved to Western-
kotten, Westphalia, where the father became a customs officer
at the salt works. Westernkotten, like other dismal holes in
which Weierstrass spent the best years of his life, is known hi
Germany to-day only because Weierstrass once was condemned
to rot there ~ only he did not rust; his first published work is
dated as having been written in 18-41 (he was then twenty-six)
at Westernkotten. There being no school in the village, Karl
was sent to the adjacent town of Munster whence, at fourteen,
he entered the Catholic Gymnasium at Paderborn. Like Des-
cartes   under   somewhat   similar   conditions,   Weierstrass
thoroughly enjoyed his school and made friends of his expert,
civilised instructors. He traversed the set course in considerably
less than the standard tune, making a uniformly brilliant record
in all his studies. He left in 1834 at the age of nineteen. Prizes
fell his way with unfailing regularity; one year he carried off
seven; he was usually first in German and in two of the three,
Latin, Greek, and mathematics. By a beautiful freak of irony
he never won a prize for calligraphy, although he was destined
to teach penmanship to little boys but recently emancipated
from their mother's apron strings.
As mathematicians often have a lilrfag for music it is of
interest to note here that Weierstrass, broad as he was, could
not tolerate music in any form* It meant nothing to Mrn and he
did not pretend that it did. When he had become a success his
solicitous sisters tried to get him to take music lessons to make
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